Monday, January 20, 2014

Loving Your Neighbor

Matt. 22:34-40

Christians are called to:
I.  Love God - own, obey, serve (represent), continue - lifelong relationship

II.  Love Man -
      the Brethren - John 13:34-35
      Our Neighbor - (text) - not necessarily a believer or someone in close proximity
Also, the Stranger - Lev. 19:33-34 - English translation - hospitality
and Our Enemy - Matt. 5:43-44

Obvious that we are to LOVE our fellow man (regardless of the level of friendship or acquaintance)
         James 2:8-9 - favoritism = sin 
         Rom. 13:8-10 - love continually, debt to love never fulfilled

This command is simple enough to understand - however, it raises  many difficult questions!!

For example:  What about:
      war?  aggressive armed enemy?  home intruder?  robber?  rapist?  bully?  street thug? 
      neighbor who's a habitual trespasser?  a thief?
      seedy looking hitch-hiker?  professional panhandler?
     co-worker who's an incorrigible jerk?
     murderer/  child molester?  the mother who abandoned me?  father who abused me?
     banker who stole my life savings?  boss who's bull-dogged me for 15 years?
     abortion doctor who killed my grandson?  drunk driver who crippled my grand-daughter?
     Islamic terrorist?  Boston Bomber?  corrupt cop?  heartless judge?  crooked politician?
     militant atheist?  blasphemous pervert?

How many scenarios could we come up with that ask legitimate questions about "Love Your Neighbor"????

Let's recognize and admit that there's much we don't know!!!   BUT, let's focus on what we DO know!!

We Know --
I.  We are called to Love as God loves.  "Agape" - Eph. 5:1-2 (selfless love)
"Agape" = 1)  active (responds, does for)
                 2)  deliberate - (chosen, self-willed, on purpose)
                 3)  impartial - (loves lovely and unlovely, deserving and undeserving)
   it.......     4) recognizes the value of people (eternal, created in God's image, Christ died for)
   it........    5)  seeks the welfare of people (the betterment)

"Agape" is NOT Primarily about feelings - affection, fondness, tender feelings, warm heart (may include these)
rather "Agape" = Action in spite of feelings - Matt. 5:43-48

II.  We are called to be a Neighbor - Luke 10:25-37
Contrast scribes' question with Jesus' answer (who is 'neighbor' vs. are you a 'neighbor'?)
Compare:  Ex. 23:4-5

"Agape" does NOT mean you must be fond of - example:  Jesus and the Pharisees (love them vs. enjoy being with them)
"Agape" does NOT mean there are no boundaries - example:  Jesus and the 5,000 - they came back the second day to get more free food.  Jesus said "No".
"Agape" does NOT mean you have no brain (don't be stupid) - Matt. 10:16
"Agape" = Biblical definition and Godly response

The world may argue, accuse "that's not love!" 
BUT, we do not answer to the world.  We are not obligated to the world's definition.   The Biblical definition is infinitely broader and higher.

Objection!!!  I still have questions about how to do this!!"
Answer:  don't let what you don't know keep you from responding to what you do know!!

Primary problem is not what don't know but is practicing what you do know!

Objection!!  No human can love as God loves!"
Answer:  Don't use your inability as an excuse not to attempt  #1.  To this you are called!!!!  
and #2.  God is gracious to assist.

1)  Recognize what He's called you to....'Agape' - Biblical definition, Divine model(s)
2)  Decide whether you'll attempt to practice it - (and have to decide over and over again)
3)  work at it - conscious, deliberate, continual effort.   Really, really work at it.  2 Pet. 1:7

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